They Weren’t People

When he first came across it, it looked to him like the bowl of a giant toilet. It was porcelain, gleaming white, and it curved up to a lid at the top. The bowl was about six feet around, the black hole of a drain it fed into three feet around. But that was it–no tank, no handle to flush. Just the bowl of a giant toilet in the middle of a room.

It seemed like a living room. Every other room in this abandoned house was rotting away, but this one seemed immaculately kept. The carpet was vacuumed, there was art on the walls, and there were clean couches and chairs. He realized, standing next to the bowl, that all of the couches and chairs were pointed toward the drain. And then, from the side, he was pushed.

The back of his head hit the inside of the bowl with a crack. His arms and legs splayed out instinctively, but it was too late. He was already going down. His body got stuck about three feet down, shaped like the letter U, with arms, legs, and face pointed upwards. He could be a large drain plug.

Already, he could hardly breathe. His own chin was closing his windpipe, the back of his neck twisted in an unnatural angle. Pain shot out of his lower back like a fuel-fed fire. A putrid stench rose up from out of the blackness. Above him, figures started to appear.

They weren’t people.

They seemed to be perpetually in shadow, their features always just out of view. They stared at him with passive curiosity for a moment, then reached for his feet. Several of them worked at his shoes even as he kicked and thrashed. His spine exploded with pain at each movement.

They removed his shoes, then his socks, their fingers wet and cold on his skin. The smell from down the pipe seemed to be getting worse. He started to gag. The figures had cracked, uneven fingernails. Fingernails or claws. They raked them against his toes, slid them between his nails and the underskin of his toes. Some of them squeezed his toes till they felt like they might burst like overripe cherry tomatoes.

When the tongues touched, they were oozing strips of sandpaper on his skin, scraping between the toes to get the full taste. His vision tunneled as he slowly blacked out from lack of oxygen, but one feature came into view as everything else faded away. He saw their jagged teeth as they bit into his toes and ripped clean through.

He fought when they started to pull him out of the bowl by his feet, but eventually he slackened. The figures chattered and moaned like lovers in coitus as they waited for him to reach the top. When he did, he kicked everything he could make contact with.

And then, there was freefall.

And then, there was the sensation of losing yourself.

And that was all right.

Queen of the Hill

Buried Johnny Pump: South Brooklyn

Dear M – – – – ,

They’re making me write this, and I’ll trash it when I’m done, so don’t expect too much. Dr. Charon wants us to write these to get it out. The Hurt. He wants us to capitalize it, and I know it’s all BS, but if I’m going to write a fake letter then I might as well go all the way.

Last week my roommate went out on a belt. I found her first. She’d made her bed up nice and neat, folded her socks, dusted her shelves and fluffed her pillows. Watered her hibiscus and fed her koi, then levered her belt over the closet rack and kicked over the books she’d stacked in place of a stool. They were all self-help books. My roommate was funny like that.

We had group session today. Dr. Charon led it, and he decided we needed Allegorical, so we did the circle routine. Share How You Keep Yourself Safe. Live Your Grief In One Word. That old chestnut. Anyway, everyone was blabbering about their Hurt and I was just sort of leaving the circle and Charon was trying to stop me but I continued. I ran into the girls’ and locked the door.

So there’s this stall I always pick. Nothing too special about it, only it’s right by the heat vent and if you unroll the TP just right the air sort of takes it and makes it billow like Mom’s dress used to outside on windy walks. I don’t know if you remember.

I liberated a couple pins from one of the RNs. It’s a messy job but I make do. You always wonder why I ask for the thick socks, heavy and woolen, even in summer. They’re best at hiding the blood. Razors are quicker but there’s beauty in the pins. Constellations form and expand underneath my pins. Singularities bleed to supernovae. Neat little streaks you can whirl into galaxy spirals. And all that. There’s an art to it.

Sometimes I don’t cut at all. Sometimes I sit and I breathe and I wait for someone to try the faulty paper towel dispenser. There’s a lot you can learn about someone from how they treat faulty equipment. The trick is to reach in and jiggle the sensing mechanism. One jiggle for one towel. But girls will bang on it, open palm slap it. One girl nearly broke her fist on it. And on those times I don’t cut, when I’m in my stall and a girl does it all wrong, I’ll wait till she leaves, get one towel for one jiggle, and go back to Allegorical.

Charon is a jellyfish. You can see through to the other side. He thinks I’m cutting to “assert my identity.” He doesn’t know about the star maps and the TP dress billowing for a while before I tear it off and stain it red. He doesn’t get it.

Do you remember Mom’s lint rollers? When her hair first started falling out and she thought she had to hide it? At first you could only tell from the scraggly jungles stuck to sticky paper in the garbage. The paper would stick to the bag like it wanted you to know. And the bandanas and the hats and the rollers scraped over every surface till she’d stuck every damn hair in the house–hers or not. Dr. Charon tried to take away my bandana my first week and I punched him in the face. I can wear it whenever I want now.

Sometimes I sneak away after Lights Out and get lost in the labyrinth under the Center. I only let the girls with smuggled cigs tag along, and even then I stick to the baby route. The belly of the beast can’t be shared. They whine about shit like boys leaving them and I fake it for as long as my cherry will glow in the dark. I head back with or without them.

They’re strict on Recreation since last week’s breakout. Clean getaway. That could’ve been my roommate, but she had to go out on a belt. I spend Recreation out in the parking lot, looking for your beater. The snow that the plows deposited over curbs and into bushes has turned into a mini mountain range that obscures my view, so I climb to the top and perch from there. This makes some of the girls uneasy, but I tell them to go fuck themselves and they suddenly find the view behind them very interesting.

I know you just want me to get situated before you come for me. I get it. So I watch snowflakes gather on the pane and remember construction paper days with Mom. Before it all fell out. Sometimes I think I can gather her in the fog on my window, but only my reflection shows.

I give Charon incident-less days, days where I sit rapt in Allegorical and smile and cry in all the right places. At first he made the mistake of commending me and I called him a twat. He doesn’t make that mistake anymore.

Dad–can I still call you that?–I’ve situated. Okay? Joke’s over. Ha ha. You can take me home now.

Charon wouldn’t give me a stamp, so I liberated one from his office. Should find its way to you. Don’t worry about finding me out here–I’ll be the one on the highest peak, peering down over all my domain: Queen of the Hill. I love you. Shut up.